My travels in Nigeria began in Lagos; the largest city and former capital of the country. Lagos is slightly behind Cairo Egypt in population but that is expected to change in just a few years. Lagos has many upscale business districts with high rise buildings and some consider it to be the New York City of Africa. Almost all visitors to Lagos are here for business with their companies covering all the ridiculously overpriced hotels and services. As an independent traveler I found Lagos to so far be the most expensive place to visit in Africa. What made it travel here even more difficult was that I considered using a credit card out of the question, so I had to bring large amount of cash. Because of all the fraud that has taken place in Nigeria the majority of companies and businesses aren’t able to use credit cards anyway. Not only is this hard for people like me but it makes doing business in the country difficult for the honest locals as well. Above are two photos of some of the larger buildings in downtown Lagos.
The photos above are from Tinubu square and Lago’s Christ Cathedral. When I walked around this area I was approached by a corrupt police officer who told me I didn’t have any permission to use a camera in Lagos. He obviously wanted me to pay a ‘fine’, but I was saved by another policeman who was wearing a different type of uniform. He waved to me from across the street and basically told the corrupt guy to back off and that I could take all the photos I wanted. I’m glad the good cop was around, but to be honest I had so many other annoying experiences similar to this in Lagos that I left the city earlier than planned. There are many modern districts, upscale shopping malls and other upscale neighborhoods that I didn’t visit; maybe next time!
Some parts of Lagos can look pretty intimidating. As I was told from someone in Africa about Lagos, things may also seem normal but dangerous situations seem to spontaneously come out of no where. I was roaming the streets here solo and had a few interesting experiences. The guy on the left was actually one of the nicest people I met. He initiated a conversation with me. Naturally at first I was a bit defensive but it turned out he was just genuinely interested in what I was doing and even let me take his photo. Only about five minutes later I came upon a big guy covered in debris that was drilling some type of hole into the side walk with hand tools. When I asked him what he was doing he looked up at me a terrified look on his face and literally sprinted away. Other locals who saw this roared with laughter while a plain clothes person standing around screamed at the guy to get back to work. I actually felt pretty sorry for him! This group on the upper right seemed to have some serious debating going on but I didn’t get the vibe it was a confrontational matter.
Although Lagos has a few modern areas I expected the city to be nicer than it was. I’m aware of the growing population and business in the city so I expected Lagos to overall be better off than your typical African city. Most parts looked no better or worse than the rest of the continent’s poorer countries. Many areas are pretty dirty but it seemed there were at least a few people concerned about urinating in public and cleaning up the streets. While people seemed busy in the enormous food markets that seemed to sprawl for miles in every direction, the poverty seemed to get worse as I traveled father and farther from the city center. The population density didn’t drop until I was dozens of kilometers from the city center. These two photos below are from scenes still within Lagos. I was told by someone in Nigeria that the people on the left were going through trash hoping to find metal and plastic to reuse themselves or sell to get them recycled. The small shacks seen on the right are about as humble as you can get. In the poverty stricken areas I got a few not so welcoming stares but also an equal amount of friendly smiles and waves.
New construction was going on all over downtown parts of Lagos. I definitely failed to photograph some of the upscale parts of the city as I mentioned earlier and that’s a major regret of mine. The new apartments on the right and some bran new houses that were along the coast were pretty common. I intended to take some better photos of the new construction projects and replace these two but it never happened. In a city of millions where business from all over the world is taking place you can imagine there are a number of people who are extremely rich. The bran new houses were essentially mansions and where only a few hundred feet away from the ocean. Unlike places in Asia or America, there are no hurricanes or earthquakes here so you don’t need to live in fear of your dream home being cracked in half or swept out to sea once it’s built!
With every big city there are also several museums. The only museum I visited in the city of Lagos was their national museum. No photos were allowed but I couldn’t resist sneaking these three in. The museum is split into several parts and the first section I went to had went to had statues and artifacts from tribal people dating back several hundred years. Both of these two statues seen above are believed to be hundreds of years old, possibly even created in the 16th century. The museum is a great place to learn about past and present cultures. My favorite area was the circle of life exhibit. Here you follow a circular hallway that shows artifacts and traditions that go throughout local tribal people’s lives. For example, the beginning started with infant type clothing and explained ceremonies often performed when a child was born. Some of the relics used included reliefs carved out elephant tusks, ceremonial dresses, and dozens of masks and statues used for the spiritual world. The large costume in the center is used in a ceremony when someone passes away. Here I learned that many tribes believe not just in reincarnation, but that the soul is reborn directly back into the same family.
After the museum was a trip to Bar Beach. There weren’t nearly as many people as I expected but I also visited on an overcast day. Lots of food stands were selling Nigerian barbecue, and every few minutes I was approached by someone on a horse asking if I wanted to ride. There were a few people swimming in the water but mostly it seemed people came here to go for a walk or simply relax. Keep in mind there are dozens of beaches in Lagos but this is the only one that I visited so I’m not sure what the others are like. Below are some kids who wanted their photo taken. At first I hesitated because I wasn’t sure if their father was okay with it. After taking the photo the father approached me and shook my hand and said, “God bless you, thank you!”.
I found walking along the beach here a bit annoying. As the only foreigner I was approached by a lot of people. Some simply were being polite and saying hi, but others were trying to sell me something, get me on a horse or just trying to get money out of me. This guy on the right ended up hanging out with me as a local guide. He did the typical you’re my best friend speech hoping to make me feel obligated to give him a large tip. It was interesting how he also kept saying how he was friends with everyone here but later another two guys approached us and began to argue with him and one punched him in the head. I have no idea what that was about but at that point I got into the car and my driver told me to roll up the window and peeled out. The beach hadn’t been that impressive anyway as there was some pollution and trash. In the distance I could see construction on a man made island. This will later become Eko City seen on the lower right and is supposed to be a Nigeria’s most modern and luxurious neighborhood yet. Some of the digital images that show what Eko City might look like are comparable to Dubai, but I’m not so sure it will be that nice!
Nigeria isn’t famous for wildlife and nature although there are a few important national parks in the central regions. An excellent place to visit just east of Lagos is the Lekki Conservation. Despite being so close to the city Lekki Conservation is a real protected nature reserve that is home to several exotic animals. The conversation isn’t a zoo and protects wild animals. You won’t find lions and elephants here but there are plenty of species of birds, reptiles and mammals. I came across the sign above when I first entered the reserve with rule #6 being my favorite. By the headquarters I also came across this large lizard on the upper right and some giant tortoises seen below. The tortoises might be an exception of being captive. I’m not sure if they are somehow forced to stay in the headquarters area or just got used to hanging out here.
The boardwalk that goes through the conservation is nearly 2km in length. There are several places to stop here including a bird watching tower and lookout point by a swamp where occasional Nile crocodiles can be seen. The warning sign earlier regarding the “crocodile pool” makes it sound as if there is some fenced off area where they are kept. Actually the boardwalk passes over lots of wetlands and some slow moving water which is the perfect habitat for the nile crocodiles. I wasn’t able to spot any but did see several lizards. Also home in this jungle is the giant tree squirrel which I probably would have rather seen over a crocodile.
I saw several species of birds and lizards during the trail walk. Most of these guys were too fast for me to get a decent photo. Something you can’t miss though are muna monkeys. Whatever their natural predator may be it definitely doesn’t exist in the reserve. It’s seriously hard to walk 15 minutes without seeing a group of these guys crashing through the trees or even standing on the boardwalk as you pass by. These two above are wild monkeys of course, but they are so used to people I was able to get pretty close. This species of monkey also seems to be naturally nice. I didn’t get the feeling they might attack me where as some other wild monkeys in Malaysia were constantly hissing and snarling at people.
My last two photos of the Lekki Conservation above show some of the wetland areas and the open savannah. The savannah had a nice bird watching tower that you can climb by a ladder which is where I took the photo on the right. I hadn’t considered the safety of the tower until I was at the top. I must have been between two and three stories off the ground. I found that every time I moved the whole tower would sway with me. I made sure not to make any sudden movements, watched a few vultures circling above and then descended back down to safety. I’m pretty confident that if I wanted to shake the tower to the ground I could have done it.